I was born in Auckland of Scottish/Irish/English ancestry. I initially graduated from the University of Auckland in the early 1980s with postgraduate training in philosophy and psychology. I practised as a clinical psychologist for 13 years during which I developed specialist expertise in the area of addictive behaviour and violence. This led me into playing an active and often leadership role in community initiatives that included forming a violence collective, establishing innovations in mental health and addiction services, chairing the Problem Gambling Foundation and fostering a variety of workforce initiatives with a community focus.
From 1991 on, I brought this enthusiasm for community development into the University, and developed postgraduate training programmes on addiction practice and alcohol and drug teaching in our medical programme. In 2000, restructuring of our faculty provided the opportunity to establish a new section focused specifically on the application of community strength building approaches to health. Over the next eleven years I led the growth of Social and Community Health in its development of teaching programmes in alcohol and drug studies, mental health and health promotion and in its research initiatives in violence, Asian health, addictive behaviour, gambling and community development.